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tv   BBC News  BBC News  April 7, 2017 2:00am-2:31am BST

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a very warm welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to our viewers in north america and around the globe. my name's mike embley. our top stories: the us signals a major shift in policy towards syria. it follows tuesday's suspected chemical attack. military options are being considered. will you and president trump organise an international coalition to remove bashar al—assad? organise an international coalition to remove bashar al-assad? those steps a re to remove bashar al-assad? those steps are under way. their first face—to—face meeting. with so many contentious issues on the agenda, will the presidents of china and the us find some common ground? after decades of violence, the basque separatist group, eta has confirmed to the bbc it will disarm on saturday. and an inspired work of art, or expensive folly? we have an exclusive on the latest work by damien hirst. hello.
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the prospect of us military action against syria appears to be moving closer, because of the suspected chemical weapons attack which killed at least 84 people. syria's claims that it didn't carry out the attack have been met with widespread scepticism, and strong words from the us secretary of state. rex tillerson said there appears to be no future for president assad as syrian leader. he's again appealed to russia to reconsider its support for the regime in damascus. nick bryant reports from new york. yesterday, we saw abdul—hamid alyoussef grieving for his twin children, poisoned in the attack. today, he suffered the further agony of burying them. often, the images we see from syria are of helpless victims, caught in a spiral of violence that they have no way of controlling.
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but today, these syrians became activists. doctors, rescue workers, children, a silent protest, an expression of dignified rage, an act of self preservation. they're demanding punishment for the assad regime and protection from the international community. and growing signs tonight both could come from the trump administration. its top diplomat hinting strongly the us could respond militarily and saying president assad will eventually have to go. we are considering an appropriate response for this chemical weapons attack, which violates all previous un resolutions, violates international norms, and long—held agreements between parties, including the syrian regime, the russian government, and all other members of the un security council. it's a serious matter that requires a serious response. today, america's commander in wounded warriors from past conflicts.
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this has been a big stress test of his america first approach, a philosophy predicated on a narrow view of us interests in which exercising moral and humanitarian leadership was not considered central. but the chemical attack has clearly altered that thinking. as he indicated tonight, aboard air force one. what assad did is terrible. i think what happened in syria is one of the truly egregious crimes and it shouldn't have happened. and it shouldn't be allowed to happen. the diplomatic battle ground in this conflict has long been the united nations security council. it's seen a struggle primarily between the united states and russia and they've clashed again over the wording of the draft resolution responding to the attack. the british and the french drafted this resolution and then the americans inserted much stronger demands. they are insisting that the syrian military hand over all the flight logs for the day of the attack and also give international
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investigators access to its air bases. the russians say that's unacceptable. the americans are refusing to back down. the syrian government continues to claim it wasn't responsible for the chemical weapons attack. translation: our army has never used chemical weapons and will not use chemical weapons, not only against our civilians, our people, but also against the terrorists. the international investigation is now under way and victims of tuesday's mass poisoning is being treated in turkish hospitals provide major clues. samples taken from them and postmortems carried out on the dead have left the turkish government in no doubt the assad regime carried out the attack. translation: unfortunately, it's very clear to us that the assad regime has no hesitation in using chemical weapons.
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they attacked with chemical weapons. the gruesome images from syria do appear to have stirred a dismal response from donald trump. he often reacts to what he sees on television. there are increasing indications his outrage will be expressed in some kind of military response. so, there appears to be a dramatic shift in us policy toward syria. admiraljames stavridis is a former nato supreme allied commander, a little earlier he told my colleague, tim willcox, how he thinks the us should react. i think ithink in i think in syria today, tactically, we should launch a series of strikes against bashar al—assad's air force, sending the signal that he has used those aircraft to deliver gas chemical weapons. it is time for punishment for crossing the red line we put in 2013. it is time to launch strikes. how do you keep russia on
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board? i don't think we can, other than to say to them that your partner, your patron, is absolutely violating international law. do not get in the way of our strikes. and i think russia will respect that, to be honest with you. admiraljames stavridis speaking to tim wilcox. david schenker is the director on arab politics at the washington institute for near east policy and joins me now. welcome. as you know, there are many more russians and iranians in syria—bound they were in 2013. it will be hard to hit syrians without hitting them. has america declared war on them and iran?” hitting them. has america declared war on them and iran? i think this can be done if we have the will. no airstrike is without risk. but i think that something can be done. i think that something can be done. i think the president is tearing up to do so. i think he was bereaved by
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what he saw and it changes his calculus of how he looks at the situation. you can do attacks on syria. iranians hit syrians and others in hezbollah all the time. the question is whether we can do this with minimal conflict with russia. what about rex tillerson's comment, there appears to be no future for president bashar al—assad as the syrian leader. you know the region well. he is stronger than he has been in years. surely vladimir putin will protect him at all costs. a cynical reading of that is that bashar al—assad will not be there after his term finishes in 2021. i think the point is that the administration is using tough language having changed their view
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of bashar al—assad. maybe it is not the priority to get him out of there. the priority is clearly fighting islamic state. but there is a standard of conduct that they are 110w a standard of conduct that they are now saying that they are not prepared to accept in syria, and i think that is a good news story. we will see how that impacts long—term prospects of bashar al—assad. will see how that impacts long—term prospects of bashar al—assadli don't mean this to sound cynical in any way, this is clearly a hideous attack, but it is not the first or worst in terms of loss of life. why response to this one when there has not been any response before? the bashar al—assad regime in six years has killed the better part of half a million syrian mostly sunni muslims. suddenly it appears to be a genocide. i don't think any people that have been killed primarily by
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barrel bombs dropped by the regime are any worse off than the people killed by chemical weapons by the regime. umm, so, it is a really arbitrary point, in a way. but there isa arbitrary point, in a way. but there is a standard in the west that during wartime we have standards which are conventional about what is conventional and what is not conventional. and over time we do not want some weapons to be used, biological, chemical, and while i think this is too little, too late, iam glad think this is too little, too late, i am glad to see that the us administration has maybe determined finally there is something beyond the pale in syria. thank you very much for your time and your insights. thank you. president trump is having his first face to face meeting with the chinese president, xijinping. the leaders of the world's two biggest economies are expected to discuss a number of contentious issues, including north korea
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and the us trade deficit with china. they are meeting at mr trump's resort in palm beach in florida speaking at a dinner between the two leaders, president trump said they had already developed a friendship. they started with socialising. both of the presidents and their delegations. president trump joked earlier than i have talked with president xijinping earlier earlier than i have talked with president xi jinping earlier and earlier than i have talked with president xijinping earlier and i have got nothing so far. it is an honour to have you in the united states. we have had a long discussion already. and so far, i have got nothing, absolutely nothing. but we have developed a friendship. i can see that. and i think long—term we are going to have a very, very good relationship. and i very much look forward to it. so, he is starting out with some very positive talk which is quite a contrast to the kind of negative torquay had about china during the campaign. and the idea is to open
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the agenda tonight and tomorrow. —— talk he. so they can get to know each other and talk about contentious issues they have to work together on. the two top items are trade and mockery us. president trump will repeat his concerns about north korea. —— and north korea. president xijinping north korea. —— and north korea. president xi jinping man tried to create more jobs president xi jinping man tried to create morejobs for president xi jinping man tried to create more jobs for donald trump. he will possibly talk about investment creating hundreds of thousands of jobs investment creating hundreds of thousands ofjobs so that president trump has something to show for the summit. but above all he wants to avoid any kind of trade war or high tariffs. and then the trade deal. they have talked about the north koreans. they talked about the increasing testing of missiles and
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nuclear testing. they want china to squeeze them more strongly and fully implement us sanctions and put more pressure on north korea along with the united states to get it to stop. the tone is set in this summit during the meeting will probably guide how the two men go forward. —— tone set. they will try to have a working dialogue where they can talk about these kinds of issues going forward. barbara plett-usher in palm beach. in a moment, we'll get the view of our china editor, carrie gracie, on the meeting, but first, here's our north america editor, jon sopel. president trump and the first lady arrived in florida a short time ago for what promises to be one of the most consequential meetings of his presidency. shortly before, xijinping arrived in palm beach. two of the world's biggest superpowers with sharply differing
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visions. we are getting ripped by china. we cannot continue to allow china to rape our country. travel down the coast from here to the port of miami and you can see what the president is talking about. far more goods are coming in from china than american products going the other way. there is a massive imbalance. the president has decided to bring in tariffs that could start a trade war. we should not get in a trading war. it would not be good either of us. the picture is more complex. take apple's iphones. an american company that chooses to manufacture in china. it accounts for 40% of the imports coming in from china to america.
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within america, there is more and more chinese investment, like this windscreen facility in ohio, creating tens of thousands of jobs. this is the number one foreign policy concern of the trump administration. there's frustration that china has not done more, and donald trump has threatened to go it alone. "a bad idea," says this north korea expert. we are going to do a lot better at it if we did this in conjunction with china and the republic of korea than if we tried to do it separately. these are vietnamese protesters unhappy about chinese expansionism in the south china sea. that idea might be touched upon, but it is not central to concerns today, where the focus is on trade and north korea. president xi likes to play the strongman. every appearance choreographed, every meeting scripted. he doesn't do risky blind dates.
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but in florida, he hopes to seize the day and shape president trump's china policy in a way that suits china. last time president xi visited the us, he made the point that companies like boeing earn good money in china. but with economic growth slowing at home, he can ill afford a trade war with his biggest market. and he'll have to offer help for us exports and jobs. he can promise enormous investments in the deprived areas of the united states, and, in a sense, allow president trump to claim that he is bringing jobs back from china to the united states. 90% of north korea's trade goes through china, which does give president xi leverage. he's already stopped pyongyang's coal barges. and he has done a lot to discourage the nuclear programme of north korea.
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he does not trust north korea, but he trusts the us even less. china believes that the us is using north korea as an excuse to deploy aggresive strategic military assets close to china and is using them to move in on their territory. there will be no gulf here to build rapport. but if president xi jinping can stop a trade war and temper the tweets on north korea from donald trump, he will call this florida summita triumph. carrie gracie, bbc news. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: clashes in argentina's capital, as workers hold a 24—hour strike againstjob cuts and the government's economic policies. 55 years of hatred and rage,
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as theyjump up on the statue. this funeral became a massive demonstration of black power, the power to influence. today is about the promise of a bright future, a day when we hope a line can be drawn under the bloody past. i think that picasso's works were beautiful, they were intelligent, and it's a sad loss to everybody who loves art.
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this is bbc news. the latest headlines: the us is considering taking immediate military action in syria, following the suspected chemical weapons attack this week. president donald trump is meeting the chinese president, xijinping, at his florida retreat, for their first face—to—face talks since the us elections. the basque militant group eta has confirmed to the bbc that it is unilaterally handing over its weapons. although a ceasefire has been in place since 2011, this means an official end to decades of violence, which killed more than 800 people. our chief international correspondent lyse doucet reports from san sebastian, in the basque region of spain. when you come here to the heart of san sebastian, it is hard
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to imagine this was once the heartland of eta. for decades a place of bombings, extortion, assassinations, a time when former eta members tell us they were literally fighting for basque independence. others say it was a time of pervasive fear, a time when thousands of bodyguards and special forces had to be deployed across this region, and in the basque region of france, to try to keep security. the human costs are incalculable. thousands of people, many of them women and children, were either killed or injured in eta's violence, and on the other side, nearly 400 people are still injails in france and spain, farfrom theirfamilies, serving life sentences. everyone here has a story. but the story now is that eta says it is unilaterally giving up its guns, and that is
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because the french and spanish governments tell them they will get nothing in return. in some senses, the move is symbolic. there hasn't been violence here in spain, by eta, for many years. and years ago, eta unilaterally announced a ceasefire. but what this new move means is that the last insurgency in europe is coming to an end. basque politicians and their supporters say they will continue to fight for independence, but with very different means. a 24—hour general strike in the argentine capital, buenos aires, shut down public transport, as demonstrators blocked city streets. unions and officials say participation is high, as workers protest againstjob cuts and the economic policies of president mauricio macri. sarah corker reports. this is the pan american highway, the main road into buenos aires from
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the main road into buenos aires from the north. what had been a peaceful protest over job cuts the north. what had been a peaceful protest overjob cuts and wages turned chaotic. demonstrators hitting riot police with sticks, they then responded with water cannon, laterfired they then responded with water cannon, later fired tea rgas. they then responded with water cannon, laterfired teargas. this 24—hour general strike by teachers, truck drivers, factory workers, brought the city to a standstill, tensions running high. translation: this is because of the government's bad economic policies. living and the bills are mounting. translation: this government hasn't done anything for the workers, just favours for friend, and private business meant. argentina's economy is flagging. jobs and salaries have been cut by the government, in efforts to stabilise public finances. and just blocks away, the president welcomed
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latin american leaders at an economic forum. he defended his policies. translation: the future depends on us, and if we work together, telling the truth, argentina will be without a doubt the country with the highest growth in the next 20 years. outside the meeting, there was tight security, and across the capital, streets were empty. businesses closed, rubbish left uncollected. planes were also grounded, affecting 800 flights. train stations were deserted as well. the president accused the unions of mafia like behaviour. five people were injured in clashes with police, and six arrested. let's bring you this breaking news. we have been trying to confirm from the last few minutes, the us has launched tomahawk cruise missiles againstan launched tomahawk cruise missiles against an airbase in syria. it is thought this was near homs, from
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which the chemical weapons attack this week was launched. 50 or more tomahawk cruise missiles from us carriers against a military airfield in syria, near homs, believed to be the base that launched the chemical weapons attack. we were just hearing from various commentators just now. there are many more russians and iranians in syria than they were in 2013, and there is some concern this could be seen as some kind of declaration of war, virtually, against russia and iran, at the belief is that these are tactical strikes, in some sense token strikes, in some sense token strikes, not necessarily a us escalation in the region. although the us secretary of state has been saying there appears to be no future for president assad as syrian leader. some questions over that as he is much stronger in the country and russia wants to protect that at all and russia wants to protect that at a ll costs. and russia wants to protect that at all costs. it does seem to be
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confirmed that the us military has carried out a missile strike on an airbase near homs, believed to be the base that launched that chemical weapons attack. we can speak to our correspondent. we are hearing that president trump is going to give an audio statement at some point this evening about what is happening in syria. otherwise the details we are getting are very much sketchy, very much along the lines that you have pointed out, that there were about 50 tomahawk missiles launched from two may be destroyed in the mediterranean, and that one, possibly two targets. it looks like at least one of the target was an airfield, and earlier reports had suggested that they might be targeting the airfield from which the plane that dropped the chemical weapons took off from. so it is possible that that is it, but we just understand that one of the targets was an airfield, and there may have been more than one. it seems, from one report, that this is
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a one off strike, not something that is going to continue for a while. but again, we are waiting to get more information about that. president trump, here in florida, has been consulting with general mattis, who is the defence secretary, on the response that could be taken to the attack, and mr tillerson, the secretary of state, is here as well, so while the principles discussing that, and that decision was made quite quickly given that president trump only responded to the chemical attacks yesterday, verbally. so we are awaiting more details on what is happening, but multiple reports now that tomahawk missiles were fired from naval destroyers. barbara, you spend plenty of time at united nations. what do you think the international response to this, the russian deputy envoy, when asked about the possibility of air strikes, as it was at that time, said about the negative consequences. well, certainly there
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will be condemnation from the russians, and from the iranians, both of whom are involved in backing the syrian regime in this war. i think that america's western allies, particularly france and britain, will probably support this, especially if it is a 1—off tactical strike and not some sort of longer engagement. especially the french, the french have been pushing all along for more of an intervention in this civil war on behalf of the opposition and against president aside. of course, the french you will remember voted against any participation in the civil war, but i expect that they will issue a statement of support —— president assad. i would expect also that the sunni arab allies of the united states in the region, i'm talking about turkey and saudi arabia, egypt and jordan, they will probably welcome it as well. when president obama made his statement that if
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chemical weapons were used that would be a red line, and he would respond to it, and then he didn't, he got a lot of criticism from the sunni arabs, who felt that that had been a sign of american weakness in the war, and generally in the middle east. so i would think that they would welcome this move from the trump administration. what is the politics of this for the trump administration, barbara? president trump blamed the chemical attack on what he called the weakness of the obama administration, although back in 2013, of course, he urged president obama not to attack president obama not to attack president assad. now he is attacking president assad. now he is attacking president assad. now he is attacking president assad. yes, it is interesting, isn't it? first of all, as you said, when president obama was mulling the possibility of carrying out a similar kind of strike, mrtrump carrying out a similar kind of strike, mr trump was very much against it at the time. he tweeted about it quite extensively. now he has taken this action. he has also basically presented himself as somebody who doesn't want to get
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involved in foreign entanglements. and on syria, he had up until now, very much had a different approach. he had been quite indifferent about bashar al—assad, not really that interested , bashar al—assad, not really that interested, or at best saying maybe assad, together with the russians, could fight islamic state. so he backed off the opposition to assad. and now he is saying that assad is the bad guy, and therefore he is going to strike against him. so it is quite a shift from him, i think. it is actually shift for american policy in general, because as you know, the americans never did actually attack bashar al—assad. they entered the war at first covertly, but also overtly to some extent, training and supporting opposition fighters and providing them with weapons, but they did not ever. . . them with weapons, but they did not ever... the obama administration, directly attack the target of bashar al—assad, even though they contemplated it again because of the
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chemical weapons strikes, so that is a shift in american policy, as well asa a shift in american policy, as well as a change from mr trump. and i suppose if you want to be cynical about this, there is no harm politically, for an administration which is accused of having russia help it win the presidency, of opposing russia in syria. the putin trump romance might be seeing the end. yes, i'm not sure how much that was a consideration. definitely this is really upping the anti in the confrontation with russia, that has changed the dynamic quite a lot, and you saw that with un ambassador nikki haley's statement in the security council. you see that with mr tillerson's statement that they should not support bashar al—assad, and the russians have military personnel on the ground, air defence
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systems which could have been assumed to have struck out against these missiles coming through, and therefore you may expect the possibility even some russian casualties. so it is taking russians on in casualties. so it is taking russians onina casualties. so it is taking russians on in a way that the obama administration, even, never really wa nted administration, even, never really wanted to do. they always felt that this would escalate the situation with the russian. so, for an administration like mr trump's, mr trump has not said one critical word about russia or putin. it is quite a step, yes. buti about russia or putin. it is quite a step, yes. but i think... it seems to me that the dynamic here would be just as much this redline issue. if mrtrump is going just as much this redline issue. if mr trump is going to criticise president obama for setting alone in the sand, or setting a red line that chemical weapons can't be used or he would respond, and then he didn't respond, now president trump can say

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